Tales of a Midwest Lutheran on the East Coast

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Sermon from July 15th

So this sermon is going to look a little weird toward the end - I got out of the pulpit (I know, GASP!) and wrote the verbs on a big white board. 

Grace and peace to you from God our father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.

Have you ever had one of those great days where it seemed like EVERYTHING in your life was going great? I hope that you’ve had at least one of those in your life. You put on a pair of pants, reach into the pocket and pull out a ten dollar bill. Then you find your missing i-phone. You get into your car and you realize that your spouse must have filled up the tank yesterday. Your very favorite song comes on the radio. You pull into your place of work with a busy day ahead or into the parking lot at Shoprite with a big list of groceries, and look at that! The very best spot is open and waiting for you. And later on you remember – yes! Today is yoga day at St. Paul!! How could this day get any better?

I know you’ve all had the opposite kind of day, too. Probably more than you’ve had the first kind of day, unfortunately. So I don’t really need to describe it for you. I think that King Herod must have been having one of those days. Last week we heard about how Jesus’ disciples went out preaching and healing people, and word of this got to the authorities, the people “in charge,” the head honchos, including Herod. And the first thing that he thinks is “Uh, oh. This is bad news. That prophet I murdered, John the Baptist, is back. I’m in big trouble.”

For if the God that had John the Baptist’s back was powerful enough to raise him from the dead, then this type of God is a force to be reckoned with. All the “powers that be” who try to squelch God’s plans ARE in serious trouble. Be afraid, Herod. Be very afraid. But we all, as children of God, have nothing to fear. For, as Paul began his letter to the Christians in Ephesus, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.” And Paul here is just getting started.

Just reading that one small passage makes me feel out of breath. All of these sentences are long, and when read all together, as you heard a moment ago, that sense of breathlessness is just compounded. It seems like he put his pen down beginning at verse three and didn’t pick it up again until the end of verse 14. The words just kept flowing, and Paul couldn’t put them on paper fast enough. Now get this: this chunk of Ephesians that we heard today is originally one… long… RUN-ON SENTENCE. No periods. No commas or semi-colons. No stopping or even pausing for a chance to catch your breath.

It’s like Paul here is on a sugar rush or a caffeine high. Only his frenzied writing doesn’t come from either. Paul’s rush, his buzz, his high, came from God and the grace that has been so lavishly bestowed upon us through his son Jesus.

Have you ever come home from a great trip or event and gushed about it to your friends for an hour straight, only to watch as their eyes glaze over? I’m sure you’ve also been on the receiving end, as your friend divulges every juicy detail of a concert you had to miss or if your child has ever excitedly described every detail of their day at kindergarten. After coming home from a youth service trip with my internship church, I heard that one of the youth talked to her parents about her trip for four hours straight in between getting home and collapsing exhausted into her bed. She was so excited about what she had experienced on that trip that she wanted her parents to know every detail. 

The desire to share the power of her trip was so strong, it overcame her exhaustion for a time and the words flowed from her in a steady gush as her parents listened in amazement at all that happened. She, in turn, had experienced firsthand the overflowing grace of God in the people she met, in the work she did, and in the songs and scripture she sang and read. God just kept pouring it on her all week, and she couldn’t help letting it pour out of her and onto those around her. I hope that our youth going to the ELCA youth gathering this week in New Orleans will have the same “problem.”

It’s like the great day that you had. It was so much easier on those days to generously tip the waitress, hold the door for the man in a wheelchair, or to be patient with the crying baby and frazzled parent in the store. When you are full, it is so much easier to fill others too. But the truth is, we already have that “full” feeling, that out-pouring of grace every day, even on the days when things DO go wrong. Because our peace-of-mind does not depend on what happens to us or how our day goes. We depend upon a God who gives us every spiritual blessing, a God who chose us to be his own children, showering us with love because of how much he loves us, providing for us an inheritance that the world cannot take away, giving us a special place in God’s grand plan for the universe, making good on his promises…. See how easy it is to get carried away with this?

But maybe you are having one of “those” days. And you’re thinking, “Really? All that applies to ME? You’ve got to be kidding. There’s no way. If God really knew me, really knew all the stuff I’ve done or the thoughts that I think, there is no way in a million years that God would so freely give me anything.” I know we’ve all thought that at one time or another in our lives. We’re gonna take a minute and go back to school together. We are going to talk about verbs. To refresh your memory, a verb is an action word, when one person or thing is doing something, usually to or with another person or thing. The person or thing that is doing the action is called the Subject. There are two entities who are the subject in our Ephesians passage – “God” and “us.” But we’ll get to that in a moment. For now, dig out a pen, pencil, or crayon, and take a moment to circle or just notice all the verbs that you see in this passage…. (write them as they are called out. Then circle God verbs in blue, our verbs in red) 

God’s verbs – blessed, chose, destined, bestowed, lavished, made known, to gather, accomplishes…

Our verbs – have, obtained, heard, believed, were marked…

God is the subject here most of the time. We are on the receiving end of nearly all the verbs.

As you can see from our board, it’s not about the things that we are doing or not doing. It’s all about that things that God is doing, to us and for us.

In the good days and even in the bad days, we can rejoice in this God who loves us so much to give us so much. You have been blessed, chosen, given a destiny, bestowed and lavished upon, loved, and given a divine inheritance. Isn’t that reason enough to celebrate every single day? Amen.

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